Bizarre! Why Some Couples Don't Marry
They really want to say 'I do.' But instead of getting married, many couples today are just living together. Why? Weddings are too expensive.
That's the word from a University of Michigan researcher who says that with the average cost of a traditional wedding approaching $20,000 (or more depending on where you live), a lack of money rather than love or commitment may be the reason so many young couples are living together instead of getting married.
Tradition has been burned by the almighty dollar.
"Financial barriers to marriage are a significant issue for many young, working- and middle-class couples as well as for the poor and near-poor," Pamela Smock, sociologist and the associate director of the U-M Institute for Social Research, said in a news release. "Despite the retreat from marriage, it remains a highly valued status." It's just not easily attainable.
Many studies have shown that people who are economically well-off are not only more likely to get married, but also to stay married. This new research by Smock and Bowling Green State University sociologist Wendy Manning suggests that the wedding budget pinch is being felt by more than low-income couples.
The study: Smock and Manning interviewed 115 young adults who were either living with a lover or had just recently cohabitated. The majority earned less than $20,000 a year, while only 7 percent earned more than $40,000. They were each asked what they needed to have "in place" in order to marry.
The results: Nearly 75 percent of those interviewed cited at least one economic factor that must be in place before they could marry. "Having enough money was a common consideration, along with the view that marriage signifies that one is no longer struggling economically; in essence, that marriage comes when one has already achieved a certain economic status," Smock said. "Most commonly, this status includes home ownership, getting out of debt, financial stability, and essentially not living paycheck to paycheck." In addition, the team found that having enough money to afford what the couples called "a real wedding" was of great concern for many.
Getting married in front of the justice of the peace in the local courthouse didn't qualify as "a real wedding." Couples said they were willing to delay marriage until they could afford a traditional church wedding and reception. Many noted that their parents were unable to help with wedding expenses, so that financial burden would fall on the couple.
One interesting finding: The researchers also found that nearly 25 percent of men and women believed that the decision to marry would be postponed until the man earned enough to support the couple as the primary breadwinner. "Despite the prevailing view that cohabitors are less invested in tradition than those who do not cohabit, many make a direct and conscious connection between willingness to marry and the male partner's ability to provide," Smock explained.
High expectations for marriage are causing a retreat from marriage. "We expect so much from marriage that we avoid it until it is clear that our expectations will be met," she said. "I'm putting my money on marriage. Whether cohabitation becomes more like marriage or marriage more like cohabitation, something like marriage is here to stay."